Pop-up hot dog benefit raises more than $20,000 for Giles County first responder

Rodney Freeman lost his home in a fire last month

PEMBROKE, Va. – A long line of cars flocked to the Pembroke Volunteer Fire Department on Saturday to support a local legend.

The Giles Lifesaving and Rescue Squad sold hot dogs for Rodney Freeman, a 38-year veteran of the department who lost his home and belongings in a fire in August. By the end of the day, the pop-up restaurant raised more than $20,000 for Freeman.

“I would not want to be in any other place but Giles County," said Freeman. "People do come together here, they care about you, and they show you how much they love you.”

The fundraiser became the most popular place to eat in Giles County for the day. The line for hot dogs backed up onto Route 460, and the rescue squad had trouble keeping up with the demand at times.

“We had to call other businesses to see if they could donate weenies and buns," said Giles Rescue Squad Sergeant Amber Jones, who came up with the idea for the fundraiser. "We had 1,500 hot dogs at the start of the day and they were gone in an hour.”

Freeman said many people came to personally thank and help him.

“A lot of people are just coming to give donations. They don’t want a hot dog, they just want to show their support," said Freeman. "We try to get them to take a hot dog, and they don’t want one. They just came to give.”

The rescue squad raised approximately $20,000 before the hot dog benefit, which means Freeman now has about $40,000 to find a new home.

“This experience has put me over the top," said Jones. "I’m speechless at the support we got today.”

Freeman says he’s more used to helping others than being helped, but he is slowly adjusting to all of the support he has experienced.

“I told myself, ‘sit back and take what they give you, and keep your mouth shut,’" said Freeman. "That’s what I’m going to do. If people want to give, I’m appreciative. I’ll take it and go with it.”